A snappy Gucci collection opened the Milan fashion week on September 22 and set the mood for the spring-summer 2011 — Italian style.

Outlandish fashion falls flat in these days of crisis, with designers preferring a return to the “oldies but goodies,” which don’t have to pass the test of time.

Frida Giannini, the Roman designer who took over the reins at Gucci several years ago, dips into the horsey past of the Florentine house for inspiration, especially for her handbags, but never succumbs to nostalgia.

The show presented Wednesday, the first day of the six-day preview showings, is colorful and fast-moving with a sophisticated elegance gleaned from a 1970’s feel and a Mediterranean allure.

High-waisted tulip skirts share the runway with harem pants. Softly tailored men’s jackets compete with fitted riding jackets and bomber jackets. Bright shades of orange, purple and green contrast with safari beige and basic black.

The 1970’s glam is most evident in a series of hot evening dresses in colorful metallic satin with intricate fringe detailing. Daytime is cinched by a gold belt with playful tassels.

Tassels also play a major role in the bag department. Mini shoulder bags with prominent stitching are decorated with tassels, as is the new “Snaffle Bit Bag” which harks back to the original saddle bag with horse-bit clasp. A darker version of the famous bamboo handle is another tribute to past Gucci glory.

The latest Gucci footwear — sandals with python detailing and metallic heel, and ultra-light basket-weave boots — is very contemporary and very high.

Later Wednesday, Alberta Ferretti presented a collection that reached way back into the annals of fashion to the days of romantic maidens. Somewhere between a Greek nymph and a Shakespearian Ophelia, the Ferretti fairy floats down the runway in flat floral sandals and diaphanous gowns, seemingly unaware of the crisis-ridden world around her.

Ferretti’s option is quite contemporary. The Italian designer represents that portion of modern women who prefer a romantic rather than edgy approach to fashion.

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